High Turnover of State CIOs

High Turnover of State CIOs

Steve Kolodney

By William Welsh, Staff Writer

After serving three years as chief information officer for North Carolina, Rick Webb left government service in August to join consulting giant PricewaterhouseCoopers of New York.

As managing director of state and local government consulting for PricewaterhouseCoopers, Webb intends to use his experience to help other states make the shift to digital government.

"I want to take what I did [in North Carolina] and share it with the other states around the country," he said.

Webb is one of more than a dozen state CIOs who have left their positions during the past year, with many being enticed away by industry.

One of the key reasons that state CIOs are in such high demand is that they are at the center of digital government, said Washington CIO Steve Kolodney.

And with government spending on information technology growing, high-tech companies are eager to hire state CIOs to help them take advantage of the burgeoning state and local market, said Maryland CIO Alisoun Moore.

However, when CIOs leave, it can create a leadership vacuum in the states and interrupt existing technology initiatives. "If the person had a broad scope [of power], then the impact is substantial," said Iowa CIO Richard Varn.

In recent years, the average turnover in state CIOs has ranged between five and 10 states each year, said Elizabeth Miller, director of the National Association of State Information Resource Executives, Lexington, Ky.

Because of this year's high turnover rate, NASIRE is taking steps to help train new CIOs and smooth the transition into their jobs. In some states, such as Missouri and North Carolina, a conscious effort was made by CIOs who were active in NASIRE to work closely with their successors for months, and even years, before leaving.

Miller said NASIRE is putting together a peer-to-peer mentoring process geared toward providing incoming CIOs with the resources and support they need to be effective in their jobs. The association also is looking at its internal structure and will make the necessary adjustments to build and retain strong leaders.

One of the obvious challenges will be to swiftly integrate the new members and capitalize on the fresh approaches and new ideas that they bring with them, according to many CIOs.

Although Webb said he had mixed emotions about leaving North Carolina's state government, he takes comfort in knowing that he helped prepare his chief operations officer, Ron Hawley, for the position. Hawley has the confidence of both the governor and the agencies, said Webb.

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